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France Awards Legion of Honor to U.S. D-Day Veteran

France Awards Legion of Honor to U.S. D-Day Veteran

Published on June 14, 2012
After Landing, U.S. Army Doctor Endured 23 Days of Non-Stop Toil

The French government honored a Virginia man in a ceremony in Bedford, Va., on June 6 with the Legion of Honor for his services as a doctor in the U.S. Army on D-Day. The award is France’s highest honor.

Beginning June 6, 1944, Edward Dwight Smith of Danville worked on Omaha Beach for 23 days, often with little or no sleep, in a three-week marathon of continuous efforts to help his fellow servicemen.

“I don’t feel like a hero or anything like that. I feel like a survivor. I’m strictly a survivor. The hero’s names are listed on the walls here,” Mr. Smith said of his time on Omaha Beach, gesturing at a display at the event.

Speaking on behalf of the French government, Air Force Brigadier General Bruno Caïtucoli expressed words of deep gratitude to Mr. Smith and other D-Day veterans. "As we reflect on your heroic deeds in that war 68 years ago, we cannot help but be in awe at the total unselfishness you displayed by risking your life to save a foreign land. Your acts of bravery and utmost dedication have earned you forever the undying affection and respect of the French people."

The ceremony marked the 68th anniversary of the attack on Normandy, which would liberate France and hasten the end of World War II. Festivities included music and a special wreath-laying event to honor the many veterans who volunteered their services and their lives.

On the same day as the Virginia ceremony, French President François Hollande visited the D-Day Memorial in Caen, Normandy, a short distance from the famous beaches stormed in the offensive. He expressed thanks to the Allied soldiers who aided France during the war, with specific mention of U.S. forces.

"I would like to express again today, 68 years later, France’s gratitude to those who made liberation possible," Mr. Hollande said. "The United States accepted the sacrifice of so very many of their sons. France will never forget it."

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